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A Man Called Hero

Jerry Lamb, Ekin Cheng and Kristy Yeung spot a better movie on the horizon.

Chinese: 中華英雄
Year: 1999
Director: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung
Producer: Manfred Wong, Barbie Tung
Writer: Manfred Wong, Chau Ting
Action: Dion Lam Dik-On
Cast: Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Shu Qi, Kristy Yeung Kung-Yu, Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Yuen Biao, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Grace Yip Pui-Man, Jerry Lamb Hiu-Fung, Ng Chi-Hung, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Dion Lam Dik-On, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Cheng Pei-Pei, Ronald Wong Ban, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Tsui Kam-Kong, Yuen Wai-Ho, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun (voice only)
The Skinny: Great looking special effects and an epic scope can't save this valiant attempt at earnest historical fantasy. A great film for the curious, but not one worthy of much praise.
by Kozo:

Highly-anticipated comic book adaptation survives a complete belly flop, but the result is hardly Olympic caliber. Manfred Wong and Andrew Lauís follow-up to the hugely successful Storm Riders is yet another adaptation of a Ma Wing-Sing manga classic.

The story concerns Wah Ying-Hung, a Chinese hero in the early 20th Century who wields a legendary glowing red blade dubbed The Blood Sword. Born under the Star of Death, Wah Ying-Hung (or Hero to be literal) has the unfortunate destiny of causing harm to those around him. Thus, he must remain alone and such is his tragic predicament.

Cinematically, Hero is embodied by Andrew Lauís main actor Ekin Cheng, who has the hair of a legendary hero but hardly the presence. He can do intense when he wants, but he canít rivet you to the screen like Lau Ching-Wan or even Louis Koo Tin-Lok. Ekin Cheng is a handsome, stoic fellow who lucked into playing these heroic types, and heís a serviceable enough hero.

What Cheng canít do, however, is save his films and thatís exactly the case here. Despite incredible production values and an epic storyline, A Man Called Hero suffers from too much exposition and not nearly enough actual storytelling. Too much plot and too many characters are crammed into 105 minutes, and the results prove disjointed and occasionally slow. The movie doesnít really begin or end. By the time weíre twenty minutes in, there are already flashbacks from characters sixteen years in the future. Or was the prologue also a flashback?

Construction aside, this cram-the-whole-comic-into-two-hours brand of storytelling leaves us with no real hook other than the character of Hero. We meet his primary enemy Invincible (Francis Ng) in the last half of the film, but nothing is developed to make their final duel anything more than perfunctory. Some characters come and go so quickly that theyíre rendered meaningless. Case in point: Yuen Biao as Yuen Mo. Itís great to see Yuen Biao in a big film, but he does very little.

This isnít to say that A Man Called Hero is a complete waste. It has some cool concepts and interesting side characters, and visually itís quite engaging. With those caveats in mind, one could walk away with a semi-good time. Still, this movie is the follow-up to Storm Riders, and it pales in comparison. (Kozo 2000)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Vicol Entertainment Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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